If you like your Buddhist temples dripping in bling, rather than more austere surroundings, Wat Phra Kaew is the temple or wat for you. Known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, this opulent wat is embellished with glittering gold and houses the eponymous Buddha carved from one single piece of jade.
Said to have briefly resided in Wat Arun, the Emerald Buddha, which measures 68cm, is thought to have originated in Chiang Rai, then travelled north to Chiang Mai before its final resting place in Wat Phra Kaew after alleged theft by some Laotians. King Rama I built the temple to protect the statue which resides on a high gilded altar where it can only be viewed from a distance. Behind the altar are murals depicting the life of Buddha.
This awe-inspiring wat, part of the Grand Palace, is also the most sacred and the spiritual and religious nexus of the monarchy and Thai Buddhism symbolically united in its most holy image, the meditating Emerald Buddha. The Buddha is housed in an opulent temple with polished tiles, mosaic pillars and marble pediments. Away from the dazzling gold mosaic circular Phra Si Rattana Chedi, Wat Phra Kaew has over 100 buildings and also contains elaborately decorated statues and pagodas. Another attraction in the compound that's worth a look is the model of Cambodia's Angkor Wat – a famous structure which was built when the country was under Siam rule under King Rama IV.
Thai temples are sacred spaces and a strict and respectful dress code applies – legs, feet (including toes) and shoulders must be covered to be allowed admission into the wat. Admission is THB400 and it's recommended to allocate at least two hours to explore the surrounds. To visit the wat, take a ferry to Tha Chang Pier and walk five minutes down Thanon Na Phra Lan, or bus numbers 1, 25, 44, 47, 82 and 91 stop on Thanon Maha Rat, on the west of Wat Phra Kaew.